Thursday, June 21, 2018

MENU's Iberian Exploit 12. Valdepeñas

John wanted us to stop in Valdepeñas in Spain to taste some of their wines, this being one of the largest wine growing areas in the country.  It was an adventure, but we were not successful in tasting any wine. They have not yet discovered wine tourism; you can buy wine at the wineries (well priced) but not taste any before you buy.  There was no AirBnB or Booking.com accommodation available for the night we needed, but Lynne did find a roadside motel in Santa Cruz de Modela on Hotels.com (we like them because you rack up a free night for every 10 bookings you make). We had stopped there for petrol and then discovered that it was where we would be spending the night.  However, this place did not initially look very salubrious. And it was right on the side of the busy motorway. You enter through the truckers' American style diner, as there is no m/hotel reception and you have to wait while the dismissive manageress serves the customers
Finally, one of the cooks took us to our room, which was fine. They are redeveloping the place and the clean and clinical rooms are well at the back with sound proofing, clean linen, and a bathroom 
Breakfast was included, so we had it in the dining room adjoining the Diner. Lynne got her Green tea. As they say in France, breakfast is Café Complète.  A small croissant, butter, jam and a beverage. John had an espresso. We think they could do better. But it was fine for just the one night
We set out to explore the area and find out what the wine was like. And had no success at all, despite driving many kilometers and stopping at two commercial wine plants
Lunch was necessary after that small breakfast, so we drove into Valdepeñas. It was raining and extremely cold; everything was closed for lunch
Pedestrian streets as we searched for a restaurant. We asked a local and were given directions to the central square - Plaza de España
with its huge church
And these historic buildings which house two separate (owned by the same people) restaurants. It was Monday and they were very busy, as most of the smaller places were closed
Bar Penalty was the one we saw first, we would probably have enjoyed the Enoteca more
Its a pub with food, and the owner has a passion for football, as does all of Spain and Portugal
Choices! in English and very reasonably priced
Our house white wine, which was a local 100% Verdejo from the Bodega Corcovo was assertive, grapey, perfumed and made from unnamed local grapes. It resembled Pinot gris, with a touch of muscat on the nose. Lively on the palate with fresh acidity, but just on the safe side. Vanilla on the nose so possibly American oak, but no wood ascertainable on the palate
Our starters of huge fat green beans with slivers of well flavoured ham - a bit overcooked but flavourful and Tiznao, a cold mix of tomatoes and fried onions, bacalao flakes (minute). Sweet peppers were supposed to be in this, as were pine nuts, but none were detected.  It was very fishy in the worst way possible. Not enjoyable. Fresh bread
A main course of Swordfish on the grill (Espada). Very fresh swordfish, well cooked and well seasoned, if a little thinly cut; impressive given the distance we were from the sea.  Served with a fresh salad and lemon
Oh, huge mistake. This is what they have done to Patatas Bravas. So shocking, so sad. Slap (under-cooked) chips, coated with a bottled sauce. It was like a hot, hot tomato ketchup with extra cayenne pepper. The two sausages were good but were they chorizo?!
The pudding that John rejected after one spoonful. He said it was like fermented yak milk (not that he has ever tasted yak milk!). Lynne tasted it and it was junket (boarding school horror!) made with tinned milk
Not at all sweet which is why they give you honey to pour on it. We left it.
Lynne had Pudding which is normally a flan with crème caramel sauce. This was topped with cream squirted from a can. Not too bad but with a very solid (bread?) base, perhaps there to support the custard and make it easier to cut into slices?
A good espresso
This memorial is in the Plaza
with an explanation - María Josefa Ruiz López (1960-2017) The first deputy mayor of Valdepeñas City Council and deputy for the province of Ciudad Real in the Cortes of Castilla-La Mancha from 2011 to 2014. She died of cancer at age 57. 
We resumed our drive through the ancient vineyards of Valdepeñas and took photos of these old bush vines. We've always thought of this type of viticulture as particularly South African, so this was an interesting find
So carefully planted in this stony clay soil, in precise rows
When we looked to the north, behind this olive grove, we saw this weather front heading towards us and we were going directly into it
It was the beginning of poppy season
The road before us

Lynne taking photos with her Kindle Fire
And then the storm hit us.  As we went through this small village it was snowing and had laid down a couple of inches of snow in a couple of minutes. On the exit to the town, there was no snow and the road was dry, so localised and so fierce were these storms.  We were off to Toledo
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